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What is Cord Blood Donation?

If you are pregnant and have been considering cord blood banking or cord blood donation, it is vital to know all that is involved. Perhaps you heard about cord blood donations and are interested in the process, or maybe you just want to learn more to weigh out the options before making a decision; either […]

If you are pregnant and have been considering cord blood banking or cord blood donation, it is vital to know all that is involved. Perhaps you heard about cord blood donations and are interested in the process, or maybe you just want to learn more to weigh out the options before making a decision; either way, understanding what it is and how the process works is the first step on your journey. In today’s article, we will go over cord blood banking and donations, how it works, and its benefits.

What is Cord Blood?

Cord blood is the rich source of stem cells that remain in the placenta and umbilical cord after you give birth. They are the building blocks of our blood and are known as Hematopoietic cells or blood-forming cells. Stem cells are the foundation of our immune system, which is why cord blood stem cells are so valuable. They reproduce into red blood cells and boost the immune system by repopulating damaged blood cells.

The buzz surrounding stem cells started in the 90s. It wasn’t long before doctors and researchers discovered that the blood inside an umbilical cord and tissue was rich with stem cells and was presented as a “safer” alternative to bone marrow transplants that are used to treat other diseases. Shortly after, public cord blood donation banks and private cord blood stem cell storage banks emerged and have been a postpartum option for mothers ever since.

Donating Cord Blood vs.
Storing Cord Blood

During your pregnancy, there are many things that you must prepare fr or consider before the birth of your child. Will you have a hospital delivery or homebirth? Do you plan on having a natural birth or receiving an epidural? Doctor or midwife?

It can be overwhelming, but it’s important to plan these things ahead of time, so you are adequately prepared when these short nine months are up– sounds like a long time, but they fly by. Another important question that you should ask yourself during your pregnancy is what you want to do with the placenta and umbilical cord (cord blood) immediately following your child’s birth. Typically (and routinely), the umbilical cord is thrown away unless the parents choose to store or donate it. The decision should be made at least three months before your baby’s due date so you can adequately prepare for cord blood storage or donation.

  • Cord Blood Donation- If you decide on donating the cord blood, it will be donated to a public cord blood bank after being collected and tested after delivery. As we mentioned above, the choice of whether or not you are going to donate should be made before delivery and should be discussed with your doctor or midwife (this is so they know to collect the placenta and umbilical cord after and also to make sure that donations can be made at your hospital).
  • Once the cord blood is tested and meets the required standards, it will be stored at the public cord blood bank until a patient needs it. It is not stored and saved for your child or family.
  • Unlike private cord blood storage, cord blood donation has zero out-of-pocket costs for parents.
  • Cord Blood Banking- By choosing to store the cord blood with a private cord blood bank like AlphaCord, you are preserving your baby’s cord blood for your baby (or family) for possible future use. Unlike donating cord blood, cord blood banking is not free, but there are plenty of affordable options for parents to choose from.
  • Why do parents choose to store their baby’s cord blood? A baby is a 100% match to their own stem cells, which can be used to treat non-genetic diseases and cancers. They can also be used for siblings and family members. Treatments using a family member’s cells can be twice as successful as those of a non-relative donor.

Whether you decide to store or donate your baby’s cord blood, it is entirely up to you, but if you are exploring these options, you must do your research and choose the best choice for you and your family. Either way, the stem cells within the umbilical cord can potentially save the life of someone who has a life-threatening disease.

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Closeup of a couple embracing the mother’s pregnant belly.